Kawhi Has Paved New Era for New Balance


The first time I had seen a pair of New Balances were some beat-up kicks in my Grandpa’s closet.

New Balance had the reputation as the company that made shoes for Dads whose sense of fashion consists of long white socks, polo shirts and BBQing. That was until they partnered with one of the coolest players in the NBA:

Kawhi Leonard.

The Beginning

Kawhi signed with New Balance in 2018 to help them re-instate a place for themselves in the NBA. While this is the start of their collaboration, the story started back in 1987 with James Worthy and the New Balance P740.

Worthy famously wore the P740s in the 1987 NBA Finals, helping the Lakers win back-to-back rings in 1987 and 1988. He even secured himself Finals MVP honors in 1988.

Worthy, ahead of his time, made New Balances look cool before they were.

Worthy originally signed with New Balance because he was impressed with their offer of a signature shoe and their willingness to try something different, he told SLAM.

In an interview with Complex, Worthy mentioned that aside from himself, only M.L. Carr and a couple of borderline NBA players were wearing New Balance in the NBA. Eventually, Worthy signed with Adidas, ending New Balance’s presence in the league.

Worthy told Complex that it was the worst decision he ever made.

The New Balance Hiatus

When Worthy left NB, NB left the NBA.

Aside from an amusing set of circumstances surrounding former NBA player Matt Bonner, not many pairs of New Balances were worn in the NBA.

Bonner told ESPN he had a stockpile of 20 pairs of New Balances. When he was down to his last pair, they dramatically fell apart during a game. He then took to Twitter using a sneaker company’s account to make his case for a shoe deal.

New Balance told Bonner a fresh shipment of shoes was on its way. Only for nothing to ever arrive.

Not the best look for New Balance.

Kawhi Signs With New Balance

Now back to Kawhi signing in 2018. Twitter loves basketball, but they also really love memes. Kawhi signing with New Balance was met with its fair share of humorous criticism.

While Kawhi signed in 2018, his first shoe, however, did not release until 2019. He debuted his first shoe, the OMN1, at the 2019 All-Star Game.

The shoes were released to the public eight months later in October, with a low-top version following in 2020. He followed by releasing two versions of the KAWHI shoe in 2020 and 2022.

While all three shoes were a great success, with various colorways selling out online, the most exciting aspect was the collaborations. Kawhi and New Balance took part in perhaps the two most unlikely basketball shoe collaborations; Jolly Rancher and Goosebumps.

The first version of the Kawhi shoe came with limited edition Jolly Rancher colorways. The shoes hilariously featured Kawhi’s famous expression; a straight face.

The collaboration with Goosebumps came on April 20th of this year. The shoes were so good that legendary author and creator of Goosebumps, R.L. Stine had to secure a pair for himself.

New Balance’s Current Standing

Since Signing Kawhi, New Balance has also added Zach LaVine, Darius Bazley, Jamal Murray, Dejounte Murray and Aaron Nesmith to the squad. Now boasting a roster of three NBA all stars, with hopefully more on their way.

While no one outside of Kawhi has their own signature shoe yet, you can spot them on the court, rocking a pair of New Balance TWO WXYs.

In another unlikely collaboration, Leonard and Jack Harlow linked up for a New Balance ad to play some hoops.

Hopefully, Kawhi can get him right before Harlow stars in the White Man Can’t Jump reboot because Kawhi let us know that his layup package is ass.

About Josh Douglas

Josh is a fan of shot creators, big guys that play like guards, and on-court accessories. He is an avid supporter of all things Clippers and 76ers. Josh writes about the L.A. Clippers.

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